Focusing on animal cruelty rather than health and environment was the thing that finally made me successful in becoming vegan
This is probably obvious to anyone who has been a vegan for any length of time, so I suppose I mean this post more for people who, like me, struggled for a long time with making the transition from eating a vegetarian diet to living a vegan life.
I had to recognize that it was more than a dietary choice and embrace that it was instead bound up in everyday moral philosophy and my relationship to the nonhuman world. In other words, I had to find meaning in it—or rather, allow myself to embrace values I already had—beyond the utilitarian.
I (32/male) had been vegetarian for most of the past 15 years. Like many of us, I chose to do this for both health and environmental reasons, and the choice wasn’t exactly well-received by my working-class family, but I found lots of support when I went to college.
I was always aware of the inherent contradiction between my professed values and behavior but became quite good at ignoring it. I believe now that this was largely because I felt I was in some way achieving good in terms of health and environment with a vegetarian diet while still eating dairy and otherwise making few lifestyle changes to counter animal exploitation (and indeed, continuing to contribute to it.) I am reminded in this of Jean-Baptiste Clamence, the main character of Camus’s The Fall (my username is a reference to it), who says, “I had always been aided by an extraordinary ability to forget.”
Anyway, I’m obviously the last person anyone here should look to for advice, but wanted to share in case anyone is almost ready to make the change. It’s been a few months for me now, and I’ve noticed improvement in my overall sense of wellbeing. (I have a chronic mental illness and have felt better since a few weeks after becoming a vegan.) This is no doubt partly because of the better diet, but I think it is also due to not having to constantly rationalize choices at odds with what I believe. It is still occasionally hard, but refocusing at those moments on the deeper why—animal suffering—has been what works for me.
Again, probably a huge “duh” for most on this sub, but hopefully this might energize someone not quite there yet.